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Image of someone going to ER to treat sudden hearing loss.

In today’s society, putting off health care is a scenario that occurs more often than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider the parents who continually put the needs of their children before of their own, ensuring their sons and daughters obtain proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. How about professionals who won’t fit in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are those who live by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply your annual preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had total loss of hearing in one if not both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it might become permanent.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals who experience sudden hearing loss–the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than some might believe. In fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. With that being said, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could develop sudden loss of hearing every year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually occur over several hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Because the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad fact is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

Your best possibility of getting back at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the preferred method of treatment has evolved. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this presented a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects linked to the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD found that an injection of steroids into the eardrum was just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the drawbacks to oral alternatives by permitting the medicine to go straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that could diagnose the inherent problem causing your sudden hearing loss can be ordered by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is important. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even a test of your balance.

We Could be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Researchers continue to work on the problem but frankly, there is a lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden hearing loss. New developments with infusing drugs into small microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what may be a safer way.

Researchers have shown that even though they may not have all the answers about sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is increased by seeking early treatment. If you have hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should get in touch with a hearing professional immediately.